End of Session Approaches Triggering Exceptions in Legislative Rules

By Julie Pelegrin

LegiSource followers may recall that, toward the end of a regular legislative session, certain exceptions in the legislative rules take effect with the goal of expediting the process. These exceptions apply based on how many legislative days remain in the legislative session.

Article V, section 7 of the Colorado Constitution requires the General Assembly to meet annually in regular legislative session for no more than 120 calendar days. Normally, these legislative days are counted as consecutive calendar days, starting with the first day of the session, regardless of whether the House or the Senate actually convenes on a particular day. Because of this, it’s not hard to predict how many days are left in a regular legislative session.

This year, however, the session has been anything but regular. Based on the provisions of Joint Rule 44 of the Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives, since last March when the Governor declared a state of disaster emergency caused by a public health emergency exposing a great number of people to disease, legislative days are no longer counted as consecutive calendar days. Instead, only those days on which the House or the Senate actually convenes count toward the 120-day limit.

So, if we are only counting the days on which the House or the Senate convenes, and they could decide to take a temporary adjournment, and they could decide to adjourn sine die early, how will we know when the rule exceptions apply? How can we reliably count the days? That’s what announcements are for.

Wednesday, June 10, was the 80th legislative day of the session. On that date, there were as many as 40 days remaining on which the General Assembly could convene before they would be required to adjourn sine die. However, the Majority Leaders in both the Senate and the House have announced that, as of Wednesday, June 10, the legislature is in the final three days of the legislative session. This does not necessarily mean the General Assembly will adjourn sine die on Friday, June 12, but it means that the exceptions in the legislative rules that apply only during the last three and the last two days of the session are now in effect.

Those exceptions are:

Last 3 days of session:

  • House Rule 25 (j) (3); Senate Rule 22 (f): Each House committee chairperson must submit committee reports to the House front desk as soon as possible after the committee acts on a bill. No more waiting for two or three days to turn in the report. This requirement—to submit the committee report as soon as possible—actually applies to Senate committee chairs in the last 10 days of session. See Senate Rule 22(f). And during these last 10 days, at the request of the Senate Majority Leader or President, the chairman must submit the committee report immediately. If that doesn’t happen within 24 hours after the request, the committee staff person is required to submit the report to the Senate front desk on the chairman’s behalf.
  • House Rule 36 (d)Senate Rule 26 (a): The House and the Senate can consider the amendments made in the second house without waiting for each legislator in the first house to receive a copy of the rerevised bill and for the notice of consideration to be printed in the calendar.
  • House Rule 36 (d); Senate Rule 26 (b): Legislators can vote on conference committee reports as soon as the reports are turned in to their respective front desks—even if the report has not been distributed to the members and has not been calendared for consideration. The usual practice, however, is to try to distribute copies of conference committee reports to legislators before the vote.
  • House Rule 35 (a): Throughout most of the session, a Representative may give notice of the intention to move to reconsider a question. In this case, the Representative has until noon on the next day of actual session to move to reconsider. However, during the last three days of session, a member may not give notice of intention to reconsider.
  • Senate Rule 18 (d): Throughout most of the session, a Senator may give notice of reconsideration, and the Secretary of the Senate must hold the bill for which the notice was given for up to two days of actual session. During the last three days of session, however, this rule is suspended, and a Senator cannot hold up a bill by giving notice to reconsider.
  • House Rule 33 (b.5): Usually, the House rules only allow technical amendments on third reading; offering a substantial amendment on third reading may result in the bill being referred back to second reading. During the last three days of session, however, a Representative may offer a substantial amendment to a bill on third reading.

Last 2 Days of Session:

  • House Rule 35 (b) and (e): A motion to reconsider in the House usually requires a 2/3 vote to pass. In the last two days of session, however, a motion to reconsider – in a House committee or in the full House – requires only a majority vote.

And there are a couple of additional rule changes that have apparently been in effect for some time:

Last 5 Days of Session:

  • Joint Rule 7: One day after a bill is assigned to a conference committee, a majority of either house may demand a conference committee report, and the committee must deliver the report before the close of the legislative day during which the demand is made. If a bill has been assigned to a conference committee at any time during the session and the committee hasn’t turned in a report, the committee must report the bill out within these last five days of session.

Last two weeks:

  • Senate Rule 22 (a)(2): During the final two weeks of a legislative session, allows a Senate committee chairman to schedule a committee hearing on a day other than the usual day the committee meets.

We still do not know exactly the date on which the General Assembly will finally adjourn this year’s legislative session, we can reliably assume it’s getting close….